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What happens when girls reach puberty?

In the space of a few years the human body develops and matures from childhood to adulthood; this is called ‘puberty’.

Girls’ and boys’ bodies are quite similar while they are children, although they have different sex organs. During puberty girls and boys become more different. Girls often enter puberty when they are around ten to twelve years old, and it is usually finished by the time they are fifteen to seventeen years old. 

Puberty starts when the brain releases hormones that cause the ovaries to produce estrogen, the so-called female sex hormone that affects many different parts of the body.

One of the first things to happen is that the breasts start to develop. At first there is a small lump under each nipple, this can be rather sensitive to the touch. In the next two years these will develop and the girl starts to get breasts. The speed at which this happens and the size of the breasts varies a lot from girl to girl.

At the same time as the breasts start to develop, hair starts to grow around the sex organs. At the start there are just a few thin hairs, but later on more hair grows there and on the inside of the thighs. Hair also grows in the armpits.

Estrogen makes the womb enlarge and the walls of the vagina grow thicker. At this time there can also be a white fluid discharge released from the vagina. Later on the girl gets her first menstruation (period). The ovaries start to release an egg about once a month so that the girl can get pregnant if she has sexual intercourse.

At the start the regularity of the menstruation can vary widely from girl to girl, but later on this stabilises to about once a month. After each menstruation the lining of the uterus gets thicker so that it is ready to nourish a fetus if the girl gets pregnant. During menstruation part of this lining is released along with some blood, and leaves the body through the vagina.

During puberty the body grows more quickly than previously. Girls get broader hips and their body gets more fat. This is totally normal and it is also normal to eat more food than before. This is necessary for the body to develop into adulthood, and it is also usual to gain weight.

Hormone changes also make girls sweat more than before, and the sweat has a more ‘adult’ odour. The skin produces more fats, and these can lead to many girls getting spots during puberty. Some girls experience more mood swings than they did previously, but these stop gradually over time.

 

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